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Lace (1984)

aka Lace

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 240 mins · English


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Small Judy Hale
Small Monsieur Chardin
No_movie_poster Sir Christopher Swann
Small Dr. Geneste
Small Maxine Pascal
Small Selma
No_movie_poster Prince Abdullah
Small Aunt Hortense Boutin
Small Jennifer 'Pagan' Trelawney
Small Lili
No_movie_poster Count Charles de Chazalle


No_movie_poster William Hale Director
No_movie_poster Elliott Baker Writer


The story opens circa 1980 at an abandoned chateau in the Swiss Alps, once a prestigious boarding school, L'Hirondelle. The internationally famous film siren Lili (Phoebe Cates) travels from there to a private meeting with the elderly Hortense Boutin (Angela Lansbury), who Lili knows was paying money on behalf of one of the school's students to a family which adopted the student's illegitimate child. Lili is the child, now grown up.

The story then flashes back to 1960, introducing schoolgirls Pagan Trelowney (Brooke Adams), Judy Hale (Bess Armstrong), and Maxine Pascal (Arielle Dombasle). Through misadventure and romance, each finds herself entangled with a man - Pagan with Prince Abdullah of Sydon (Anthony Higgins), Judy with banker Nick Cliffe (Simon Chandler) and Maxine with ice hockey player Pierre Boursal (François Guétary). All three romances come to naught, but one of the three falls pregnant. Knowing it means ruin for the unwed mother, the three make a pact to protect her identity. All three present themselves to the local doctor, Dr Geneste (Anthony Quayle), deciding not to reveal which of them is pregnant until the last possible moment, and he agrees to assist in having the child adopted. The only clue offered, is a remark by the Doctor, when he finally discovers the identity of the mother-to-be: "Of the three of you, you are the one I least suspected." The child, Elizabeth Lace, is born on November 17, 1960. The mother's birth name is recorded as Lucinda Lace.

An attempt by the school's headmaster Monsieur Chardin (Herbert Lom) to expel the girls is thwarted when they unearth photographs of him in a homosexual tryst with the school's chauffer, Paul (Jonathan Hyde). They blackmail Chardin into allowing them to stay, and graduating them with honors. The child is placed with a foster family. On their behalf, Maxine's aunt, Hortense Boutin (Angela Lansbury), agrees to pay money to Felix and Angelina Dersaad, a French couple who consent to raise the child. The three women, though they initially promise to retrieve the child, do not do so.

The three girls, on the verge of success in their respective careers, receive a report that the child has been killed, and previously suppressed resentment, jealousy and shame erupts into a feud between the three, and they go their separate ways. In fact, Lili survived (Felix and Angelina were gunned down by soldiers after the accident) and transforms herself into a soft-core porn actress, street-walker and finally a film sex symbol. Her ambition is extraordinary, but her drive comes from a desire to find the woman who abandoned her, and punish her for the years of suffering, first in a labour camp, and then on the streets of Paris, which Lili has endured.

Employing a private investigator, Lili tracks the payments to her adopted parents to Hortense, and through her, finds out about the three school friends, and their pact. She knows one of them is her mother. Pagan Trelowney is now Lady Swann, a British aristocrat, and the wife of a famous cancer researcher who devotes her time to raising money for his charitable foundation, Judy Hale has become a respected journalist, war correspondent, and now publisher of Lace magazine, while Maxine Pascal is now the Countess de Chazalle, a French socialite, who has rebuilt her husband's estate.

Slowly, deliberately, Lili inveigles herself in the lives of the three women - promising then reneging on an exclusive interview with Judy to re-launch her magazine, offering and threatening to take away from Pagan a charity premiere of her new film to raise money for research, and seducing Maxine's son, intending to estrange him from his mother. Lili's intention is, if they do not reveal which of them is her mother, to ruin all three. At the conclusion of the first part of the two parts of the mini-series, Lili assembles the three former friends, and challenges them with the mini-series' most famous line: "Which one of you bitches is my mother?".

The second part of the mini-series is driven largely by flashbacks to the three women's young adulthood, charting their respective career successes, and returning occasionally to the present where all three are in the company of the woman who claims to be the abandoned daughter. Scenes from Lili's childhood are also seen.

At the conclusion of the second part, Lili urges each of them to expose the other as her real mother, but they remain silent. Infuriated by their distant and reluctant responses, Lili orders them to leave, but keeps the promises she had made to each of them in the first part of the mini-series. As they do, Lili presents them with irrefutable evidence of her birth - the date, the doctor's name, and all the details the women thought were secret. Later, Pagan, Judy and Maxine are having drinks in the hotel bar and discussing the matter further. Ironically however, Lili's revelation is what ultimately helps to repair their estranged friendship and they decide that, for the first time, Lili's mother is "on her own".

In the final scene of the mini-series, Lili receives a phone call from the hotel manager, telling her that her mother wants to see her. Shocked, Lili gathers her courage and rushes into the foyer of her suite. She sits down on the staircase and waits for her mother to enter. A moment later, Judy Hale comes into the room and after a tense moment of silence, beckons Lili to come closer. Lili slowly rises from the stairs, walks toward Judy and the two embrace each other.